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  • Writer's pictureLisa Hanly

Big Slick Kansas City

I planned my birthday trip to Kansas City so I could be with Paul Rudd. And Jason Sudeikis. Oh, and my husband too. All three are genuinely nice guys. Let me explain.

For the last 14 years, a group of celebrities who are from the Kansas City area have been holding a fundraiser for Children’s Mercy Hospital of Kansas City. They call it Big Slick and it has evolved into a huge charity weekend of fun and fundraising. It is held the first weekend of June (my birthday week!) and with Kansas City less than a four-hour drive from St. Louis, I asked my husband if we could spend my birthday with Paul Rudd and Jason “Ted Lasso” Sudeikis, plus a couple dozen of their celebrity friends.

In the end, I got up closer to Weird Al instead of Paul and Jason, but more on that in a minute.


The celebs gathered for group photos, and I did my best to get shots of Paul batting and coming across home base. That's Aisling Bea on the big screen and Eric Stonestreet of Modern Family waving to the crowd.

The Big Slick weekend starts with the Big Slick Celebrity Softball Game, held at Kaufman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals. The game is played an hour before the Royals game and it was amusing to watch a group of actors and comedians try to be athletes—because mostly, they are not. There was a lot of horsing around between the stars and it was apparent that everyone on the field was having fun. Super Bowl Kansas City Chiefs stars Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce also played stealing the show, and it was hilarious to watch everyone try to dodge any balls hit by these “real” athletes. I’m sure everyone’s agent cringes thinking about these stars potentially getting beaned by a line drive!

L-R: Hasselback Sweet Potato; Crab Gnocchi, Tomato Farfalle at The Antler Room

After the celeb game, we skipped the Royals baseball game to sample one of KC’s best restaurants. Our choice was The Antler Room, a small, well-regarded restaurant with a seasonally changing menu and a great wine list. Sharing is caring, so I am glad my husband is also one of the nice guys who is willing to let me choose and then take bites of everything. We enjoyed:

· Hasselback Sweet Potato with walnut sauce, sage butter and pistachio dukkah

· Romanesco (another name for a fancy, pointy Christmas-tree looking piece of broccoli!) with golden hummus, anchovy brown butter, crispy chickpeas and anchovies

· Gnocchi with fine herb bavarois (a creamy herb sauce), crab, chili crab butter, chili threads and lime

· Tomato Farfalle-whipped mozzarella, prosciutto, nduja, Calabrian chilies and pine nuts

After dinner, we headed for Ca Va!, an adorable Champagne bar with a full menu of bubbly delights and small desserts. It has an outdoor deck where we watched a summer thunderstorm roll in over the city, so we headed inside for a delightful strawberry rhubarb cornmeal shortcake that was just the right amount of sweet treat to accompany one of my favorite glasses of bubbles, California’s Schramsberg Mirabelle Ros. I love Ca Va’s tagline: We've got French flair and a Midwestern heart, and we're bringing Champagne to the people. I would be in this bar all the time if I lived in Kansas City.


On Saturday, we wondered if we would bump into any celebrities in KC for Big Slick, but learned many of them spent the day at Children’s Mercy visiting sick kids. Remember how I said these are nice guys?

Our day started looking for a place to watch the English FA Cup final. My husband is a huge Manchester United fan and we luckily found The Pressed Penny Tavern, a bar open early to show the playoff game. However, we did not know we’d chosen the opposing team’s club bar (oops). But in typical Midwestern nice, even though “our” team lost, the crowd was friendly and it was a good experience.

Watching sports and drinking beer at 10 am makes one hungry and the great part about the bar location was that it was remarkably close to Joe’s Kansas City BBQ. We’d visited this location many years ago when it was still called Oklahoma Joe’s…but since then the owners wisely renamed it! The restaurant is connected to a gas station, and its looks belie the fact there is some of the best BBQ anywhere inside. We savored our pulled pork, burnt ends, mac and cheese and delicious French fries. While there is always a line, it moves extremely fast. We talked to the man in line behind us who was from Texas and had made his way to Joe’s based on its fabulous reputation (he later shared he was happy with his choice). I will admit we also considered going to Arthur Bryant’s for BBQ, but we figured at least a few hundred (thousand?) Ted Lasso fans in town to see Jason Sudeikis might camp out at that restaurant, hoping he would visit, since it is featured in the TV show (recall Ted’s screensaver along with all of Ted’s KC-themed t-shirts). If you are in Kansas City, just have some BBQ—you won’t regret it.

After lunch, we spent a delightful afternoon at two of Kansas City’s jewels: Country Club Plaza and the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. The weekend was coincidentally the County Club Plaza’s 100th Anniversary, so while I indulged in a little birthday-justified retail therapy, we were entertained by musicians and promotional giveaways on multiple corners of this gorgeous shopping center. In my opinion, this is the location of one of the best Anthropologie stores in the country.

After shopping we headed to the Nelson Atkins, which features significant collections in many areas, including South and Southeast Asian, American and European works. It has a great sculpture garden which includes the very recognizable massive shuttlecocks by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. We especially enjoyed two current exhibits, The Art of Saul Steinberg and Crowning Glory: Millinery in Paris, 1880-1905. The original Nelson-Atkins building now connects with the fabulous modern Bloch Building, giving you a traditional art museum combined with a modern museum. If you are an art lover, it could take you the entire day to peruse. Bonus: admission is free!

To make sure we would arrive on time for The Big Slick Party and Show, we had an early dinner and an even earlier pre-dinner drink. KC has a convenient, clean free streetcar that goes up and down Main Street, transporting people throughout the Arts District, passing the Power & Light District (which is filled with bars and restaurants and outdoor party spaces) and near the T-Mobile Center—and we took advantage of the free ride to be dropped off right next to Extra Virgin KC, a tapas bar by restauranteur Michael Smith. We’d enjoyed the Michael Smith restaurant in the past and are fans of this Mediterranean-themed bar featuring a giant variety of wines by the glass, as well as tapas for dinner. Then we walked to Lidia’s Kansas City. You may know Lidia Bastianich from her cookbooks, New York restaurants Felidia’s or Becco, Eataly or from her PBS TV shows. I’ve had great experiences at her New York restaurants and wanted to try her KC location.

L-R: The interior of Lidia's Kansas City has a gorgeous Chihuly style glass chandelier. The old train railhouse provides a chic historic setting. The pasta sample is a fun way to taste three different pastas. Dessert also offer a variety of gelato sampling, each with an accompanying cookie. The combinations were wonderful—chocolate gelato with shortbread, strawberry gelato with an almond cookie and vanilla with a bittersweet chocolate orange crispy wafer.

The restaurant is in a former railhouse near KC’s Union Station and feels very farmhouse chic. The glass chandelier dazzled as the sun came through the windows. We appreciated the hot fresh bread with two complimentary dips—a white bean hummus and a fava bean dip, but tried to hold back as we knew mammoth sized portions were on the way.

Lidia’s Kansas City has the same fun menu concept we’d experienced at Becco, which is the pasta sampler. You get three different pastas, all served on one plate. Servers stroll out of the kitchen periodically with pans of pasta and will refill your plates with any of the three pastas you wish. My favorite was the wild boar ragu, but I was so stuffed from the fantastic bread and opening Caesar salad that I couldn’t really do pasta refills, because I had to leave room for dessert. The gelato and cookie sampler was worth not filling up on pasta! My husband enjoyed and shared (thank you, honey) his apple strudel.

We reboarded the street car for the main event at T-Mobile center and were there in minutes. Time for the main event!

L-R: Big Slick headliners are the Missouri/Kansas City area hometown celebrities: David Koechner, Jason Sudeikis, Paul Rudd, Heidi Gardner, Eric Stonestreet and Rob Riggle. Riggle played to the crowd, including a lot of love for the Kansas State Jayhawks. Wing tasting with Sean Evans from The Hot One appeared to be super hot as Paul Rudd had to chug some milk to cool off after his turn. Aisling Bea is a comedian/actor we love, she's funny and her Irish accent just makes her even more cheeky in my opinion. Punkie Johnson from Saturday Night Live went on late after being overserved. Sarah Chalke from Scrubs looked too glamourous for the hijinks on stage. Kevin Pollack from Mrs. Maisel looks so much younger in person! And Will Forte just looked like he was enjoying it all, even though he did not perform.

Big Slick is such a well-attended event after 14 years that they need the T-Mobile Center, which seats about 18,000 people. I spent a little more on the tickets than I usually would for a show, knowing it was helping the kids. We were on the front row of the stadium seating (but not the floor seats, which were for the much higher dollar donors). While Paul and Jason were not that close by, we were surprised when the stars started streaming into the event…they passed right by our seats, including offering high fives and hellos! We got to see Aisling Bea, an Irish comedian we love (she was another reason we came), Will Forte, Kevin Pollock, Punkie Johnson from Saturday Night Live, and many others.

The event was a variety show type format with a mix of comedy, musical performances and even a mini-competitive version of Hot Ones with Sean Evans feeding celebs spicy chicken wings until they begged for mercy. In between acts, there was information about Children’s Mercy and the good work they do, with a short auction to raise funds to help the cause. Auction items that were well out of budget range included a ticket to the red carpet premiere of Paul Rudd’s upcoming Ghostbusters film (sold for $53,000) and a trip to see Saturday Night Live and hang out in Heidi Gardner’s dressing room (sold for $50,000).

Most of the evening’s performances were up on stage, amplified by two jumbotron screens, so no matter what we had a good seat. The celebrities all seemed to be having fun at their own private party that just happened to be on a stage. But then they asked Weird Al to do a number and he worked his way through the floor seats, delighting everyone and he ended up right in front of me!

At the end of the night, it was revealed that more than $3.5 million was raised for pediatric cancer research this year. It was easy to leave the event feeling hopeful, helpful and with lots of KC love in our hearts.


A Visit with Harry S. Truman

On the way to Kansas City, we took a side trip to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. The museum is well worth the time and on a weekday, we mostly had it to ourselves. It was easy to see why the tagline for the Truman Museum is “An Ordinary Man, His Extraordinary Journey.” Truman, the only president from Missouri, started served during the end of World War II and had a lot to manage during his tenure. I left feeling proud of this Missouri man, and wishing our current politicians could be more like him.

We had lunch at a truly unique restaurant nearby, Vivilore. The restaurant is housed in a sprawling antique and gift shop in the Englewood Art District. We did not know to reserve a table early enough to end up on the courtyard garden filled with exotic flowers and plants. The food was high-end “ladies who lunch” type fare and it was delicious. Walking through multiple stories of this fun shop was like visiting a museum where everything was for sale. Next time, I will plan in much more time to browse and shop.


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